Robyn Dawson

The Life-Changing, Life-Saving Work of PLCs

For fifteen of my twenty-eight years in education, I have been an elementary school principal. I have worked with affluent, middle-class, and poverty clientele. The last ten years have been dedicated to the under-resourced population. Everything you think of when you think of children in poverty is what we do each day. These students and their families of course need the basics; shelter, food, clothing, utilities, social and problem-solving skills. But, educators are wired to teach content. This dichotomy alone presents many glitches when it comes to the student who is experiencing poverty and eventually, down the road, many of those students are unsuccessful in education.

Changing Lives; Saving Lives

Each day the precious babies of Spradling Elementary march through the door with big smiles. They come regardless if there is precipitation, if they are sick, or whether or not they have appropriate clothing. One day as I was washing clothes here at school for some of our students, which we do on a regular basis, it dawned on me that these students, these adult community members of the future, have their lives hanging in the balance according to how we serve them right now. Whether we are cognizant or not of the full depth of our influence, it is there, it is real! These students, who are currently in a cycle of poverty, have no idea how their future is up for grabs. I had always thought, “We are changing lives daily.” But, in reality, it is much more serious than that. If we take every student as an individual and truly believe that ALL kids can learn, meet their needs academically, socially, and emotionally, and put into action our mission--Every Child, Every Day, Whatever it Takes to Achieve a Better Future--we will set them up for success to achieve that brighter future well past the time they spend with us. Creating strong systems of intervention, and consistently  reviewing the four PLC Critical Questions and teams working collaboratively to meet individual student needs ensures they will have a strong foundation when they leave here. This realization came to this seasoned educator in the form of knowledge about the PLC process and the Pilot with DESE. Solution Tree’s coach, Diane Kerr, and a team of specialists, held Spradling’s hand to make a difference for our most needy babies. It occurred to me…we are NOT about teaching, we are about learning and we are not changing lives, we are SAVING lives. I am so thankful for the knowledge we have gained and that we ARE in the business of saving lives!


Robyn Dawson is principal of Spradling Elementary School. She is featured in the documentary, "A Child's Best Hope: The Arkansas PLC Story." In 2017, the Arkansas Department of Education launched the Professional Learning Communities at Work Project to transform education across the state. The documentary follows three schools including Spradling in various stages of the implementaiton process. Watch the documentary:

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